The uncalled-for exercise Taken 3 doesn't fit the previous two installments of Taken, Liam Neeson's family-retrieval franchise. Nothing gets taken here except your ticket money.

Instead, Neeson is framed for a murder and the former CIA operative goes on the lam to conduct his own investigation, always a scant half-step in front of the police, who are commanded by Forest Whitaker. No exotic locales as in the other films - this all takes place in a rather trashy Los Angeles.

Luckily, Neeson has a copious stash of resources put aside for just such an occasion. And he can always count on his recurring cadre of ex-spy buddies, notably Leland Orser, who are loyal enough to commit several felonies on his behalf.

What doesn't make sense is why Neeson would flee in the first place, since he's obviously innocent. And why he doesn't share with the police the clues he uncovers, since they are both presumably trying to catch the killer.

It's because . . . then we wouldn't have a movie. That's why. Not that there's much of a movie in Taken 3. This is mostly a collection of explosions and blunt-force trauma.

Famke Janssen is back as Neeson's ex, and the mother of his willowy daughter, Maggie Grace, who is a magnet for menace. As Janssen notes of herself, she has lousy taste in men. You can practically smell the villainy on her latest spouse, Dougray Scott.

This time around, Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, who have written all the Taken scripts, have grafted an incompatible sense of humor onto our usually grim hero. But then, so many elements of this movie clash, such as the scenes of placid domesticity alternating with sudden displays of brutality. And Nathaniel Mechaly's inappropriately swollen score.

In the end, Taken 3 is like a nursery school playground: a great deal of noise, running around, and tears, to very little purpose.

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